You would think that the lives of saints would be free of disharmony. In fact, the opposite is usually true.
Great souls seem to attract hurt and betrayal, often from the very people to whom they have opened their hearts.
There are many reasons for this. One is simply the dual nature of this universe – when the light ascends, darkness tries to snuff it out.
Another reason is that great souls incarnate to set an example for us of how to live in this world. The saints no longer have karma of their own, but they may take on karma to help us understand how to act rightly in all circumstances, no matter how difficult.
We see this in the life of Paramhansa Yogananda. Several of his long-time disciples turned against him, even dragging him into court, in an effort to destroy his work and reputation.
After one treacherous disciple left the ashram and moved to another part of the country, Yogananda sent him a case of mangoes once a year. Always, the disciple returned the case unopened.
Yogananda said that it would take this man several lives to return, but that soon after he retraced his footsteps to the Guru, he would find freedom in God.
Swami Kriyananda had to endure extraordinary persecution from his own gurubhais. For twelve years, they dragged him through the courts in an attempt to destroy his work and reputation. It would not have been dharma to let them succeed. He had to fight back with great energy and determination. Through it all, his love for them was unchanged.
That level of forgiveness may be beyond us, though it is the destination toward which we are all striving. Yet until we become perfected in love, we must be practical. It doesn’t help us to pretend to a level of perfection that we haven’t actually attained.
How, then, shall we respond when our karma assails us?
When storms of karma darken the horizon of my life, I like to hold a simple thought: “God knows what He is doing with me.” I may have my own desires and opinions in the matter, but I remind myself: He knows.
I can rarely arrive at that level of detachment right away. There may be days of struggle until the light dawns. In the meantime, I do my best not to define myself by my errors.
We must reach the same state of detachment and acceptance of God’s will that the saints have attained, where we are continually aware that He is arranging our lives for our highest good.
Until we get there, we must be practical. God may place us in situations where the best answer is to run away, rather than remain in the situation and be trampled by it.
A friend described a relationship that she was caught in with an elderly relative. The elderly person did everything he could to take the joy out of her life.
I said, “And you sat there and let him to talk to you like that?!”
She said, “Yes, I did.”
I said, “I would have walked out and never come back. It isn’t good for him to speak like that, and it is an offense against the Divine in you to let yourself be treated that way!”
If my friend had been unaffected, I might have replied differently. If she were detached and able to give perfect love to an unhappy old man, no matter how he treated her, it might have been a spiritual service worth offering. But she was deeply affected. I could see that her encounters with that bitter old man were draining the joy out of her.
Years ago, a woman wrote a letter to Swami Kriyananda, explaining that she was leaving her husband after seven years of marriage. She said, “When I try to meditate, he turns up the television as loud as possible. When I speak of spiritual things, he makes fun of me.”
Swamiji said to me, “She put up with that for seven years? I wouldn’t have taken it for fifteen minutes!”
As the Gita tells us, when a higher dharma conflicts with a lower, we should always follow the higher path.
Pray constantly for the grace of God. His grace changes everything. In His love, there is no question even of forgiveness, because there is only love.